By Heather Awen
In permaculture, everything has to meet more than one need. It’s called “stacking functions.” I try to live my life by permaculture principles, as it appears to the most sensible movement today, along with Transition Towns.
In that spirit, the spring hair cut ceremony serves many purposes. I have been told I have three times as much hair on my head than the average person, so when it gets warm I want a lot less hair on my head trapping heat. Also it looks nicer as I cut off the dead ends. And it provides materials for birds building nests.
I leave bits of organic thread and string I saved throughout the winter, ones I cannot use, for the birds, too. When the waves of song birds return to Vermont, I put on my activated carbon filter mask and step outside, trying not to inhale any neighbors’ idling cars exhaust or wood stove smoke. The hair and twines are stuck into metal holes which at one point may have anchored a blind on the back porch. The birds should have an easy time pulling free the materials.
All ceremonies I do, like all living I do, has to benefit the whole, in practical ways. For me and the birds we have a win-win situation. They get nontoxic nest building supplies, my hair and string ends stay out of a landfill, and there is no waste. This is the goal of my ceremonies. I didn’t have to say anything, and could rush out with mask on for protection and quickly push my hair into the holes. My intention was pretty clear. “Welcome back, birds, have some building materials. I hope they make a good home.”
This year the ritual meant more to me than usual. I had been living in a field for 6 weeks with no water, sleeping in a car, in 22 degree weather, with a black bear shaking the automobile at night, covered in yeast growing on my skin. All my family knew and all social services knew but no one did anything, even though I was unable to walk from cerebral palsy and the state declared I had to be provided nursing home level of care. However, because of having Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, there was no safe housing for me. Apartments of propane heat, formaldehyde carpets and press board cabinets, VOC paints and grout, smoking tenants, cross ventilation with those using Febreeze and Glade Plug Ins, plus the mold so common in Vermont, even though Housing and Urban Development says that the state much make MCS accommodations like for any disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, no one did. HUD in Vermont didn’t care what their official stance is and no one else cared about the law or my life.
I was homeless a lot as a teenager but I was a punk traveler by choice, not a middle aged disabled woman. There were no options like crashing on a couch, using public restrooms, washing clothing at a laundromat, bathing at a church, and finding food and clothing in dumpsters. All toxic.
In that experience one thing I learned was firsthand how it feels when your natural habitat is gone. The human natural habitat is gone. I cried a lot about knowing what polar bears know firsthand. The ice floats drift farther away and the bears drown due to Climate Chaos. I try to eat something with food dye in it, followed by vomiting. We have lost our safety, we have lost our homes.
To be able to provide some nontoxic home building materials for the birds was an honor. The fact that I had a home meant I had survived a time no one expected me to live through, including myself, and could help others with making their own.